China’s trekking elephants wait for youngster to catch up

Watching a scientific one-hit-wonder unveil such a robust career in “Bob Ballard: An Explorers Life” premiering on National Geographic TV today was more fun than I thought. A mix of government voiceovers to scientific reels of Ballard sinking to the very bottom.

The progression of a documented life by the parents led Ballard to compete to be literate, well-spoken, and more importantly, a dreamer. That dream of a Kodak moment under the sea came from early TV, the lens opening to a whole new world. Sure, we get to see the Titanic and learn some nifty secrets, but the Ben Franklin submarine inspired more inquiry.

“If you are in charge of when the game ends you do not quit until you win.” – Dr. Robert Ballad who found the Titanic.

The VW Bug sputtered across the country leading to a draw bridge on the coast that changed Ballard forever. Bubble Boy? I kind of like Bubble Bob as we almost get a Sponge Bob enlightening view of the total eternal darkness of the deep. Let’s hear from Bob directly.

Dr. Ballard: Hi Brad, can you hear me?

Brad: I can Dr. Ballard, how are you this morning?

Dr. Ballard: Are you going to come on or are you going to hide behind the screen?

Brad: Ok, here is my video.

Dr. Ballard: I was told to never to talk to the person behind the curtain.

Brad: But, there is nothing to see here. Definitely. Are you having fun this morning?—&client=ca-pub-4298545354336832&output=html&h=280&adk=2997875959&adf=3779502780&pi=t.aa~a.709529227~i.10~rp.4&w=810&fwrn=4&fwrnh=100&lmt=1635699888&num_ads=1&rafmt=1&armr=3&sem=mc&pwprc=1611399151&psa=1&ad_type=text_image&format=810×280&!9&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=yTtV098Kri&p=https%3A//

Dr. Ballard: Yes, we are going to finish promoting the book and the TV special and I am going to sea.

Brad: Oh good.

Dr. Ballard: Going back out to where I know what I am doing.

Brad: At least the Ocean lets you from time to time.

Dr. Ballard: It does. It is nice.

Brad: It is a pleasure to have a chance to ask a few questions. I am Brad Bartz with and we will write something up. I think it will be funny and nice.

Dr. Ballard: Well, you know there is a great connection with what I am doing and with Europa and Enceladus. Ready to talk.

Brad: In reading through some of your history it seems like your first dive was in the Ben Franklin Bubble. I am wondering that when you saw that name did that instantly make you want to study Ben Franklin? And if so, what did you take away?

Dr. Ballard: The reason they called it the Ben Franklin is they wanted to drift in the Gulf Stream. And it was Ben Franklin that first postulated the existence of the Gulf Stream as Postmaster General.

Because he found that when the ships were carrying the mail to England, they went much faster than the ships coming back. He realized there must be a current that is slowing the other ships down. Because he saw that ships that went south that got into the dire came back faster.

He hypothesized the Gulf Stream.

This was a bathysphere built by the Picard’s. And they are the ones that built the Trieste that made the deep dive in January 1960 in Challenger Deep.

They wanted it to drift in the Gulf Stream and let the Gulf Stream be the power plant. And so, we were the first test dives in that bathysphere, or a submersible, because it had batteries.

It was the most luxurious one I ever dove in for 20 years because Picard the son was very tall, like 6 foot five. It was like a Pullman Train literally, it was long. It had bunks, it had windows, it had a bathroom and shower. I never had that after that.—&client=ca-pub-4298545354336832&output=html&h=280&adk=2997875959&adf=13996375&pi=t.aa~a.709529227~i.24~rp.4&w=810&fwrn=4&fwrnh=100&lmt=1635699888&num_ads=1&rafmt=1&armr=3&sem=mc&pwprc=1611399151&psa=1&ad_type=text_image&format=810×280&!a&btvi=2&fsb=1&xpc=7cvUmIpr62&p=https%3A//

It was not until the NR1, years later, that I had that luxurious submarine again.

Yes, that was pretty cool. That was my first dive.

Brad: Neat. Neat. In many years you have been in 200 shipwrecks all over the planet. Can you remember the most expensive piece of equipment that you broke or lost?

Dr. Ballard: Yes, but I got it back. I lost my first undersea robot JASON on its maiden voyage. I got curious after Titanic about human history. I am a geologist, plate techtonicist, and did all that stuff in marine biology and geophysics. Then I built the Argo JASON system to be able to stay down indefinitely.

I called it JASON after Jason and the Argonauts and the Search for the Golden Fleece. I have always had this interest in human history. My favorite hobby was studying ancient history. When I found the Titanic and I saw how well preserved it was, I went on this journey back in time. Which took me back into the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, because that is the cradle of civilization.

That really got me looking for well preserved history. Willard Bascom, who was a hero of mine at Scripps, had written a book about if you really want to find ancient history go to the Black Sea because it most perfectly preserved because of its Anoxia.

So going into the Black Sea and going along those ancient trade routes and finding ships that were perfectly preserved 200 B.C. with human remains. Wow.

Brad: Could you expand a little more about Anoxia water and the epiphany that, I assume a team epiphany. And then it comes to grant documents that get you there?

Dr. Ballard: Originally it was Willard Bascom books in 1976 it was published. That he hypothesized that you would find perfectly preserved ships. But the cold war blocked us from going in.

I know that when the Berlin Wall went down the first thing I said is I am going to the Black Sea.

So, I got the permits because then Crimea was Ukrainian. I got to meet the president Victor Yushchenko. Who was in the Orange revolution and was very pro west and they let us come to the Crimea off of the ancient city of Carasenesis. Which is right on the Crimea near Sebastopol.

I knew that I could also work along the coast of Turkey. Turkey let me come in and I knew that Jason and the Argonauts went through the clacking rocks at the Bosphorus and the golden fleece was over in Georgia.

The golden fleece was where they took a sheepskin and put it in a in a river and pan for gold and the gold fell in the sheep’s fleece. When it was golden, they melted it and had gold.

I was immersed in that whole thing.

I got to go in there, but as I was deciding to go in and hunt along this ancient trade route, two scholars at Columbia University, Walter Pittman and Bill Ryan, wrote the book “Noah’s Flood” and it wasn’t a religious book. It was a Scientific thesis that said that the biblical flood a occurred in the Black Sea.

We all know that during the last glacial maximum 22,000 years ago sea level was isostatically lowered globally 120 to 150 meters. So, we knew sea level went down.

So, when it went down 22,000 years ago the Black Sea became a freshwater lake much like the Caspian Sea. Eventually would fill out and flow out, but then when sea level went back up as glaciers melted and began reclaiming the continental shelves they yielded to the Ice Age it finally broke through at the Bosporus.

They said that what happened was the Black Sea staid down as a freshwater bucket of water and now its rising through the Gibraltar. Except when it was closed off during the Miocene and it went dry. It is connected so that the Gibraltar has enough of a silt.

So, you have saltwater going in all the way up to the Aegean all the way up through the Bosphorus knocking at the door in the Sea of Marmara. Then when it finally it breached it and they said that when it breached it was like a cannon going off. Because it had the hydraulic head of the world’s ocean and the water shot in, they say over a mile.

Well, that’s saltwater and went into a freshwater body and it replaced it. It went to the bottom.

Once that water went to the bottom the Bosporus is so shallow it couldn’t resupply it and the water went stagnant and it went anoxic, it lost its oxygen. And now it’s a dead, dead ocean.

When shipwreck sank nothing ate them.

The upper part of the Black Sea is oxygenated, But below 100 meters it is not. That is where everything is so slim. It flipped.

I wanted to prove that the flood did happen, so I went in there and we know that sea level rose stopped 6 times. Along any other continental shelf, you have 6 shorelines. There is only one shoreline in the Black Sea not six.

And then I went along that shoreline with robots and picked up shells right and I had them carbon 14. I had 5,000-year-old shells and I had 15,000. So, I straddled the biblical flood which we thought was around 4 thousand BC.

Then I had my shells analyzed and guess what? Only the old shells were freshwater, and all the young ones were saltwater. And the line was 7,200 BPE before present era which is about 5,000 BC. Bingo done.

Brad: That was cool. In your career I love the line that you were throwing books away. This meant a lot to me because you expressed your reading difficulties.

Dr. Ballard. yeah yeah yeah, that was fun.

Brad: I mean it was important for people to express that you know disabilities can be overcome.

Dr. Ballard: Not a disability! There is none, it is in advantage it is a different way of learning. Period. Not a disability.

Brad: Do you find that you are learning mind is more tactile or direct observation.

Dr. Ballard: I am visual. My brother was the smartest human being I ever met. Non dyslexic went to Berkeley, Phi beta Kappa under teller, he was A + + and 2 years above. I would follow him in all the schools and they would say you are Richard’s brother you must be (smart). No, you are not, so I was always the dumb one. But I coped and I figured it out.

I did but I got B’s and A minuses. Which is a big difference.

I did it the old-fashioned way. I learned and I did hard work.

What I did is I learned a trick that dyslexics use, we memorize. My visual memory is amazing. I would come back from class typing up my notes in big font. I would then take my homework and memorize it.

I literally take and I would I felt like I was cheating when I took an exam because I simply closed my eyes and read my CHEAT SHEET in my mind. Not on my hand or on my fingernails. It was in my mind I had a CHEAT SHEET.

I went up and there it is, and I’d write the answer.

Brad: There’s the compensation.

Dr. Ballard: Sorry about that. Now I didn’t like the non-dyslexic rules, so I always been out of the box. Most dyslexics are entrepreneurs. At MIT they call it the MIT disease.

Engineering. NASA is full of dyslexics. Full of architects, artist anyone that is using their eyes.

I visualize it in my mind I can take it in like this command center. This is actually my command center when the ships would be at sea. This goes live and I when I’m on the ship I stand in the middle of my command center and I have 40 displays. I suck him all in close my eyes and see in the dark. I know where I am, so that is my trick.

Still but I want to tell the dyslexics that don’t, you know the majority of self-made millionaires are dyslexics. But if you look at who’s dyslexic and you rattle off all their names, they are white guys. Ok, they are white guys.

And then you want to find the other dyslexics, the people of color? The majority of people in prison are dyslexics because they can’t compete in a non-dyslexic world. They try to compete in their world and then they go on a path is not good.

What I’m trying to do is to tell them stop, go down this road. There is a pathway to success. No matter who you are. So, I’m spending my life now reaching out to those kids saying go down that road and give them a pathway to success.

Brad: Now, in throwing those books away. You know I was curious because you do a lot with the kids and teaching the kids. So, the books are thrown away, how long before those new facts made into the high school curriculums?

Dr. Ballard: Well, look at it now. Every textbook is out of date the minute they publish it. Driving everyone going online with textbooks because you constantly have to rewrite this doggone thing.

I’m so excited to hear that. OK textbooks are the dodo bird. And now you can get it in audio.

There’s now a font called Dyslexic Font that you can flip everything into the font and you can just read much faster. You want to go and look at open dyslexic font. It frees up your mind, you read faster. But I am an audiobook person.

I didn’t read the book 20,000 leagues under the Sea; I saw the movie. I’m visually driven. This is my world. Suck it all in and I dream of things that non dyslexic just cannot do.

Brad: I’m an a ear guy. I used to be a boat owner and I heard and actually lived the first day and the last day being the best for me was absolutely true.

Dr. Ballard: You doing better now?

Brad: The EV Nautilus. Is anything there really custom or special besides the brilliant screens?

Dr. Ballard: Yeah! It was an East German spy ship when I got it. I talked to guy out of it actually didn’t have to pay for it. I talked out of guy that bought it and decided he did not want it. And I talked him out of it. My book goes into much greater detail. Vinnie Viola, a high-speed trader, a good guy.

Fundamentally the ship is built by the inmates.

This was built by explorers. This was not something you got at Home Depot. This is not your standard ship. It’s full-on telepresence.

I just stretched it. I just had it in a shipyard. Just came yesterday I got my ship back.

I took it down into shipyard in Ensenada and I made a longer because I’m adding an autonomous vehicle system.

You want to watch us go to our website July 3rd, it is live.

Then you want to watch us in September because here is what we are going to do. We stretched it so we could take an autonomous ship.

I don’t know if you are familiar with DARPA Sea Hunter? Which is a totally… and then there’s an ocean X. Ocean Infinity is now doing the Armada. The whole ship … there is no one on it.

They are now coming up with a container ships that no one is on it.

So we are moving towards “no one is on it.” We are migrating everything ashore. What we are doing is we have a second ship, a big autonomous surface vessels it’s about 20 some feet long.

We lift and put it in the water and off it goes and then we can control it through microwave.

We then launch autonomous vehicles. AUVs, underwater. This then becomes the mother ship to the AUVs. And what we are doing is we’re going into swarming technology with multiple AUVs. We are literally putting a pack of dogs in the water.

Yeah. I do not coon hunt, but I’m told that the dogs bark changes when they treat the Coon. So, when they get the raccoon up in the tree the bark of the dog changes and they know.

We have our guy listening to our dogs and then they tell us they found something then what we can do is the AUVs that are down there run over to the ROV with an optical modem send everything. It goes up the fiber on the satellite, down to our inner Space Center Houston enters our inner Space Center out onto the to these.

We have scientists.

This is NASA. This is not new to you guys. The oceanographic community is wobbly.

I said NASA’s been doing this. Folks, on Mars and the moon. Please.

We have better conversation with you guys then we have with oceanographers. Who all want to go to sea but I say you’re a land animal. What are you doing up there?

We now have the ability to explore much faster. We have force multipliers.

That’s where we’re at now.

Brad: You are adding Artificial Intelligence to your machines. So, you are working on new algorithms and to be intuitive?

Dr. Ballard: All of the above. In turn we have very highly classified military programs where there is plenty of change.

Brad: It’s an exciting category specially with DARPA.

Dr. Ballard: Yes, we have a nice DARPA grant. The Office of Naval Research.

As you know Titanic was it cover for a military operation.

I am still Commander Ballard.

Brad: It sure seems that you know when you do the Telepresence with the remote-control vehicles that was or is the precursor to what’s going on today. With the AI and mixing it. You are foundational research.

Dr. Ballard: But then add one other ingredient remember before I was a naval officer, I was an army infantry officer working with armored divisions training for Vietnam?

What’s the most important thing to an infantry officer? Terrain.

Put them together that is where we are at underwater. OK so you can stop will stop the conversation right there.

Brad: My last question goes along with this distance learning and this zoom generation. The Titanic is an easy grab to hook people. But really was just a grab. But what I saw is that you are changing exploration and you are changing scientific discovery. The data today compared to 30 years ago 40 years ago it is immense.

Dr. Ballard: It is like drinking information from a fire hydrant.

Brad: Do you try to compete in the media landscape or is that even a thought?

Dr. Ballard: Well when you say media? You mean Television shows?

Brad: I mean capturing eyeballs.

Dr. Ballard: You cannot capture eyeballs better than with National Geographic. And National Geographic. A seminal thing just happened at National Geographic. The leadership of National Geographic all have PHD’s.

Brad: Ok…

Dr. Ballard: They never had PHD’s. So, what happened is they’ve moved to us. See we are exploratory scientists. There was a chasm. But now here on our board is Doctor Vicki Phillips.

And we are teaching now with them 28 million children we can reach. They now get it.

How many people were not zooming two years ago. Everyone zooms. If you think people are gonna run back to the office. Forget it. It will be like I will do it two days a week maybe 3. The most productive time is at home.

And it reinvents the family. Oh my gosh, you know. I think that is where we are headed in reaching the kids.

You know there was a silver lining in the Covid. Who pulled a hat out of them the rabbit out of the hat? Science did. Everyone said we will not have a vaccine for a million years. Boom. I mean we were able to garner that unbelievable intelligent science. I think there’s still people that do not believe it. Well, that’s ok I’ll go with the 75%.

We now have a public that realized the power of science and they have also realized the power of moving your spirit around through zoom. The zoom sessions of tomorrow are going to be this on steroids.

We are building telecommunications centers that totally enveloped you. We are moving past 4K we are looking at 8K now. We are going to finally get images will have to ask an Eagle what do you see? Because our eyes will not. We are now building sensors that surpass our own.

That is the future.

Brad: Ciphering motion?

Dr. Ballard: Exactly smell like a Dog, see like an Eagle, hear like a Bat.

Brad: Who gets to work?

Dr. Ballard: We’re working? Are you working today?

Brad: With all this technology one of the premises is that there’s one Main Street on the Internet. So there’s one bookstore, there’s one shopping center, there’s one science clearinghouse. Right now with 28 million children in your reach you start to wonder if that silo means a lot of other people not working. Where do we take humanity with this?

Dr. Ballard: That is a serious question. It’s a question of what do you do with members of a society that just can’t even enter our society. Because they are so far back.

I mean I don’t believe in the Roman model build a Colosseum and preoccupy them in the Colosseum.

I’ve always joked, and I don’t joke about it anymore, was that you keep most of the people busy doing something else because most of it’s being done by five percent. That doesn’t work.

We are into a brave new world. I think it’s like you and I know we don’t change our pattern a whole lot on weekends do we? We mix it. I mix pleasure with work. In a way I am not sure.

The key is can we create a society where that everyone can do that? I think the wealth is there to do it? My kids look at wealth very differently than the last Gen. They are not terribly hung up on it. I am really encouraged by the new generation coming along. They are not hung up on materialism.

Brad: The 1950s drive for materialism seems to have

Dr. Ballard: … run its course.

Brad: Faded away.

Dr. Ballard: I will always be an optimist. I watch my kids and they survived through the pandemic and they still laughing and having fun. They are glad their masks are off. Yes, we have got some healing to do. It is like going to Vietnam and coming back into a society after seeing some terrible things. I did not get to say goodbye to my son, so I know what it’s like not to be able to say goodbye to someone.

How many people are traumatized when they weren’t able to say goodbye. Lot of people. There is a lot of healing and to go on right now but I’m optimistic that we will soldier through it.

Brad: I think the pivot is the right word. There is a lot of new leaders that have emerged because of the Covid. I am very interested to see people stretch their legs next and you know what they do. Because I think that strive for money is different for entrepreneurs than ones that are striving for change.

Dr. Ballard: Yeah, I’m very excited.

Brad: Thank you Dr. Ballard:

Dr. Ballard: It was a pleasure Brad. Talk to you sometime soon.

Bob Ballard: An Explorers Life

About Dr. Robert Duane Ballard

National Geographic Explorer at Large, Marine Geologist, Oceanographer

Robert D. Ballard has conducted 157 deep-sea expeditions and is a pioneer in the development of advanced deep submergence and telepresence technology. He is best known for finding the wreck of the Titanic, but he also discovered hydrothermal vents, the wreck of the PT 109, ancient ships and artifacts in the Black Sea, and many other famous sites and phenomena. In 2008 he acquired his own ship of exploration, the E/V NAUTILUS whose exploits are funded in part by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration.

Among his many honors he holds the Explorers Club Medal, the National Geographic Hubbard Medal, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. He lives in Lyme, Connecticut. Learn more at, Twitter, and Facebook.

Legendary National Geographic Explorer at Large Bob Ballard pioneered undersea exploration. He found the Titanic and the Bismarck; he helped prove the theory of plate tectonics; he discovered newfound forms of life at hydrothermal vents; he innovated the use of deep-diving submersibles and remotely operated vehicles.

Serving as a companion piece to the 2021 tell-all memoir Into the Deep, BOB BALLARD: AN EXPLORER’S LIFE reveals the inside stories behind those exciting discoveries while also sharing his triumphs, challenges and tragedies.

Told through firsthand accounts and using the vast archives of National Geographic along with never-before-seen footage, the one-hour special takes an intimate look at Ballard’s life to reveal how a kid from landlocked Kansas grew to become one of the world’s most celebrated oceanographers.

Into the Deep: A Memoir from the Man Who Found Titanic on sale now wherever books are sold

Best known for finding the wreck of the Titanic, the celebrated undersea explorer Robert Ballard is sharing a lifetime of stories about exploring the ocean depths. The legendary explorer reveals insider secrets about his famous finds, details the long search for Amelia Earhart, and discloses previously untold stories about his dyslexia and how it has impacted his life. Ballard teamed up with Christopher Drew, an award-winning New York Times investigative journalist, to write this deeply personal memoir.,50646003.html

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